CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX launched its 24th overall batch of Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral on a beautiful clear Wednesday afternoon, marking its 10th rocket launch this year.
Ahead of liftoff, at least 60 spacecraft were packed into the Falcon 9 rocket nose cone and ready for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station launch complex 40.
The Falcon 9 launched at 12:34 p.m. into a clear-blue sky with scattered clouds. The Space Force 45th Weather Squadron forecast promised good weather and the Space Coast delivered.
“As you can see on your screen, we got some beautiful blue skies over there in Florida,” SpaceX lead engineer Jessie Anderson remarked during the livestream.
About eight minutes after launch, the Falcon 9 booster came back down landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The first-stage booster has launched six other times, including on the first SpaceX launch sending astronauts to the International Space Station.
“Our drone trips are equivalent in size to a football field, and the landing area that you see right there is approximately 200 feet by 150 feet, that’s big enough that a hockey rink would fit inside that landing area,” SpaceX Dragon engineer Youmei Zhou said during the livestream.
This marks the 79th overall orbital launch vehicle landing for SpaceX, according to the company.
The Starlink satellites are headed to low-Earth orbit where they will join a thousand more SpaceX spacecraft orbiting the planet. The Starlink constellation is providing internet to those taking part in the company’s beta program currently with more than 10,000 users and SpaceX is onboarding more users by the day.
Anderson said just recently, the Nooksack tribe in Whatcom County, Washington became the latest to use Starlink internet.
“The Nooksack tribal council is providing more than 100 households in their community, with Starlink service, who had been negatively impacted by not having internet during the pandemic,” Anderson said. “These families began to receive service last month and are now able to use the internet for work, school and even access telemedicine.”
The next Falcon 9 launch from Florida will have four astronauts on board.
SpaceX is preparing to launch an international crew of astronauts later this month, marking the third time for the private space company under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
On this flight, known as Crew-2, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough will be joined by astronaut Aki Hoshide of Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency and astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency.
The Crew-2 launch is scheduled for April 22 at 6:11 a.m.